Framatome has completed the installation of the first 3D printed stainless steel fuel component at the Forsmark nuclear power plant, operated by Vattenfall in Sweden. The ATRIUM 11 upper saddle grilles were designed, manufactured and installed in Forsmark 3 unit for a multi-year irradiation program in conjunction with KSB SE & Co KgaA.
“Advances in the integrity of components fabricated using 3D printing are revolutionary in generating safe and reliable low-carbon energy for long-term operations,” said Lionel Gaiffe, vice – senior executive president of the Fuel Business Unit at Framatome. “We appreciate Vattenfall for opening its doors and providing a springboard for future innovations and developments that will replace conventional manufacturing.”
The upper tie plate grid, located atop the ATRIUM 11 fuel assembly, is a non-structural load-bearing component that secures the fuel rods and prevents large debris from entering the fuel assembly from above. The top grids of the link plate are easily inspected and samples are available to qualify this new fabrication process for reactor use as needed.
“Safe operation of fuel assemblies is essential for Vattenfall,” said Ella Ekeroth of Vattenfall Nuclear Fuel AB. “Along with this guiding principle, our contributions to the development of efficient and reliable manufacturing processes are in the best interests of the entire nuclear industry. The overall objective of these activities is to maintain and further improve safety and enable economically viable operations over the long term.
During the conventional manufacturing process, the upper attachment plate grilles are laser welded, using comb-shaped stamped sheets which require additional manufacturing steps and operator supervision. Additive manufacturing streamlines the manufacturing process and increases design options for enhanced functionality and improved performance.
Framatome’s initiative to introduce additive manufacturing to nuclear fuel began in 2015 and focuses on stainless steel and nickel-based alloy fuel assembly components. In 2021, a 3D-printed stainless steel fuel assembly channel clip created by Framatome in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory was loaded into a commercial boiling water nuclear power plant in the United States. Framatome’s fuel experts in France, Germany and the United States have developed this technology in close collaboration with customers around the world.
Image: 3D printed ATRIUM 11 upper seat grille from Framatome (courtesy of Framatome)